By John Taylor
As the sun sets over the Java Sea, fishermen sit contemplating the late afternoon catch in mangroves by the shoreline. Not far from them, along the coast, lie mounds of rocks and construction material. In another site across the city, market vendors close their stalls for the day. They fold and store away a rich variety of batik textiles and clothing for another day at the market.
The Solo Kota Kita team is now in Pekalongan, a small coastal city of around 200,000 inhabitants on the north coast of Java. The team is visiting and surveying Pekalongan for the UN-HABITAT ‘City Development Strategy (CDS): Making Urban Investment Work’ program. Through visiting with local officials and making site visits to different locations throughout the city we are able to see and understand a lot about Pekalongan, including seeing the above rare sights!
One of the objectives of CDS is to create a city profile for the cities of Pekalongan, Banjarmasin, and Solo. The profile summarizes and communicates the strategic vision of each city, the stakeholders who inhabit it, and provides an analysis of its urban form so that people can understand what proposed projects are intended for. Through CDS the team will also facilitate participatory workshops with city residents to explain individual projects to residents that local government are planning, and gather support for their implementation.
These activities are part of advocacy work that UN-HABITAT and Solo Kota Kita are undertaking to help Indonesian cities access national budget resources to support their urban development plans. By helping cities demonstrate coherent strategic plans and general public support for public investment initiatives (such as bus terminals and market improvement projects) it will be easier for national government to channel funding to them.
The afternoon seaside setting and the batik market both tell us something about Pekalongan, some of the challenges it is facing now, and where it wants to go in the future. At the moment the city faces the threat of sea-levels rising and suffers from frequent tidal inundation – known locally as “rob.” This is when water from rivers cannot drain because of high tides, causing water to back-up and flood parts of the city. The boulders and construction material along the coast will be used to make a large coastal defense wall, intended to protect the city from the rising sea. The vendors selling batik, Pekalongan’s most famous product, are one part of the city’s most dynamic economic sector. Batik is part of the city’s heritage, and its producers will play an important role in creating jobs and income for the city in coming years.
By visiting these locations we’re able to understand how the city works, and how strategic projects will contribute to its development in the future. We intend to communicate what we learn about this and the other two cities through the city profiles in the coming months.